The Indians have been extremely quiet over the past couple of weeks, but they finally made a small move on Sunday. The Tribe inked outfielder Felix Pie to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun said that the deal could be worth up to $1 million with performance bonuses, and the 26-year-old Pie will be able to opt out by Opening Day if he’s not part of the Major League roster.
Pie was a top prospect with the Chicago Cubs, who signed him as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2001. Unfortunately, Pie has never been able to translate his minor league numbers into Major League success. He looked poised to burst onto the scene in Chicago after he hit .362/.410/.563 with 9 home runs at Triple-A Iowa in 2007. In 83 Major League at-bats in 2008, he hit .241/.312/.325 with one home run.
In January of 2009 the Cubs gave up on Pie when they traded him to the Baltimore Orioles for Class-A pitcher Hank Williamson and LHP Garrett Olson. His best season in the Majors came with the Orioles in 2010, when he hit .274/.305/.413 with 5 home runs and 5 stolen bases in 288 at-bats. In 2011 he hit .220/.264/.280 with 0 home runs in 164 at-bats for the Orioles and .250./.333/.417 with 0 home runs in 24 at-bats for their Triple-A Norfolk affiliate. The Orioles designated him for assignment in August and he became a free agent after the season.
If this works for the Indians, it could turn out to be like the off-season signing of Austin Kearns prior to the 2010 season. If this fails, it could turn out to be like the off-season signing of Austin Kearns prior to the 2011 season. What I’m trying to say is that deals like this are a roll of the dice. If he has a mediocre spring and doesn’t make the roster, it’s possible that he’ll opt out of the deal and end up with a different team. With a solid spring, he could provide the Indians with some additional outfield depth.
The Indians are still connected to rumors around Michael Cuddyer and Josh Willingham (as well as Derrek Lee). Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Indians were in on all “non-Fielder” bats, but did not have much financial flexibility at the moment. They’re rumored to be one of the finalists for Willingham, but since the Rockies, Twins and Indians have interest in both players, there has been speculation that Willingham is waiting for Cuddyer to sign first. Jon Morosi tweeted that Cuddyer’s decision will be “huge news” and will have a “big impact” on the Twins’ and Rockies’ plans. I’m not sure if that’s some kind of clue, or not…if Cuddyer ends up signing with a completely different “mystery” team, than all three of those teams would be left scrambling for Willingham.
If nothing else, there may be some resolution with a few of these players this coming week.